Web 3.0 & the Future of the Internet

10 November 2021

The timeline of the internet as we know it has been divided into ‘stages’.

First came the static websites of Web 1.0.

Then came more complex, socially-focused websites backed by complex databases in Web 2.0.

No one really talks about this, but I believe we are currently in Web 2.5 - which is where everything is sold as a service and the big social media companies make billions off of bombarding us with ads. Or perhaps this is just the natural evolution of 2.0.

So, that’s where we are currently.

The notion of Web 3.0 was nonexistent as recently as February of 2021, when I did extensive research on the web ‘eras’ for my manifesto. Since August of 2021, it has become a more widespread sentiment:

My first exposure to the concept of Web 3.0 was in this article by FreeCodeCamp, titled “What is Web3? The Decentralized Internet of the Future Explained”.

Originally I wanted to just write about this one article - breaking it down, but it became apparent that I needed more information.

One thing to note is that it’s currently unclear how far along the Web3 ‘project’ is. The Wikipedia article for Web3 didn’t exist until November 9, 2021. But intro paragraph gives me hope - it describes Web3 as “an idea for a version of the Internet” so here’s to hoping it’s still just that - an idea.

Web 2.0

Currently the cycle of creating a ‘profitable app’ is as follows:

  • Company launches an app
  • Company onboards as many users as possible (e.g., app becomes popular)
  • Company monetizes its user base (e.g., usually through ads).
  • The article acknowledges that these capitalistic intentions "negatively affect the life cycle, and eventually the user experience, of many applications that we use today."

The FreeCodeCamp article mentions the problem of the exploitation and centralization of user data.

So far so good, right?

In the early days of Web 2.0, we had sites like Myspace, Xanga, and Livejournal. Some of these sites would put monetized ads on your page, but they were usually unobstructive and (I expect, the bigger problem) easily removed/hidden with a little JavaScript.

Once Facebook proved it could make billions from ‘optimizing’ its ad revenue, selling personal data, and bombarding users with personalized ads (that they can't remove), it changed the game for everyone.

My first thought was... this ‘profit cycle’ didn’t always exist. But where are Myspace, Xanga and LJ now?

Web3 promises security and privacy, bringing up the common data breaches which are a regular part of our news cycles nowadays. (These breaches haven’t always been as omnipresent as they are now, either...)

Here’s another quote: "In web2, you don't have any control over your data or how it is stored. In fact, companies often track and save user data without their users' consent. All of this data is then owned and controlled by the companies in charge of these platforms."

These problems set the scene for the introduction of Web 3.0, or 'Web3'.

So what is Web 3.0?

NFTs, Blockchain and Crypto, Oh My

Web3 is made up of:

  • blockchains
  • decentralized networks of peer to peer nodes
  • a combination of the two above which forms a cryptoeconomic protocol

What does any of this have to do with cryptocurrency?

"Cryptocurrency provides a financial incentive (tokens) for anyone who wants to participate in creating, governing, contributing to, or improving one of the projects themselves.

To achieve a stable and secure decentralized network, network participants (developers) are incentivized and compete to provide the highest quality services to anyone using the service."

It goes on to explain, "Consumers of the service usually pay to use the protocol similarly to how they would pay a cloud provider like AWS today. Except in web3, the money goes directly to the network participants."

It’s clear that the supporters of Web3 want to emphasize two main features: decentralization and the potential for average, everyday people to make money on the internet. (Sounds like a scam? Hmmm...)

How would this work?

The flow presented by the FreeCodeCamp article is as follows:

  • Company announces the release of X number of tokens (cryptocurrency) and gives 10% to the early builders and put 10% for sale to the public, and set the rest aside for future payment of contributors and funding of the project.
  • Stakeholders (people who invest their cryptocurrency in the project) use their tokens to vote on changes to the future of the project, and the people who helped build it can sell some of their holdings to make money after the tokens have been released.
  • People who believe in the project can buy and hold ownership, and people who think the project is headed in the wrong direction can signal this by selling their stake.

If you're familiar at all with the stock market, all of this should start sounding awfully familiar.

Whose idea was this anyway?

My search for the origin of Web3 brought me to web3.foundation. Their front page says, “We fund research and development teams who are building the foundation of the decentralized web.”

According to the site, the creator of Web3 is named Gavin Wood. Gavin Wood is an English computer scientist and co-founder of Ethereum. Etherium is a decentralized, open-source blockchain with the cryptocurrency Ether. (Coincidence? I think not!)

The takeover’s already begun

Many big (and small) companies have already (fairly recently, too) begun buying into the Web3/crypto hype. Here is a short list:

Gamestop is hiring an Ethereum Specialist and teased an NFT marketplace

Reddit is looking to tokenize karma with ethereum-based tokens

Discord is surveying its userbase about NFTs and Web3

Neopets are being turned into NFTs

Square Enix is looking to leverage the potential of NFTs and blockchain gaming

Funko Pop Figures are already releasing NFTs
Several K-Pop labels have announced partnerships with cryptocurrency and NFT issuers

State Farm Kicks Off First NFT with virtual football treasure hunt

McDonalds Issues McNFT to commemorate McRib’s Return

The more that huge companies buy into the hype, the more 'profitable' the hype itself (of cryptocurrency) becomes.

What does this mean for the future of the internet?

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s still too early to say. On the other hand, it kind of feels like the choice about our future is being made for us, ‘us’ being just average people using the internet.

From what I have found, Web3 is not paving the way for a freer internet - despite how much it touts doing so. Instead it wants to turn the internet to turn into a giant Kickstarter, funded by us - the users.

Do you have thoughts on Web3 and the emergence of blockchain across the web? Let’s talk about it! You can send me an email here, or pop into the Yesterweb Discord server to have a chat.